We all know that simply allowing customers to purchase products and services through your company’s Web site isn’t enough anymore. Now accustomed to second-generation Web technology, most customers no longer will choose to spend time at self-service sites that can’t provide the customized, specific information that they need to make buying decisions.
However, many corporate Web sites are little more than brochureware. They treat all potential customers the same, not as individuals, and can’t direct them to specific material that interests them. Worse yet, if visitors dare to surrender their real contact information, outdated sites badger them with automated email blasts and phone calls from salespeople. Behind the scenes, many of these companies don’t have accurate lists of prospects, much less the ability to target these visitors intelligently, and this approach to marketing only serves ultimately to drive away prospects, which impacts revenue and the bottom line.
Many marketing organizations additionally waste a lot of time and effort on the Web site — think of the effort your marketing team puts into building an email blast, a white paper offer or a landing page. You work hard to launch each individual piece of collateral, and then are forced to move on to the next time-consuming task without ever giving that asset the chance to fulfill its lead-generation potential.
Enter the next generation of marketing automation. Today there’s absolutely no reason that a subpar Web presence should undermine your marketing efforts, and by leveraging available technology you can personalize your site so that customers get the information they want and can use it to solve business problems — through your products and services.
The first step is to stop thinking of your Web site as distinct from your marketing program. See it as a valuable, meaningful campaign that can give your marketing efforts a boost in a cost-effective and even viral way. You must go beyond viewing the Web site as an IT requirement to support business and embrace it as a unique opportunity to create loyal customers that treat your company as a preferred provider and as a result buy more from you and recommend you to others.
Pick a Platform
Using new tools, you can make sure campaigns and events go up on a Web site at the right time and come down before they get stale. In choosing a platform for your next generation marketing efforts, here are some of the crucial functionalities that you should look for:
- Membership management that enables you to create member account pages with secure login and links to all events and offers members have accessed in the past, as well as connections to their account team and colleagues.
- Updating of preferences, transactions and landing pages that keeps information about customer activity and interests current and enables further personalization of offers.
- Lead generation that keeps you on top of leads as your site produces them, and allows you to score and prioritize them so your sales team goes after the most promising prospects first.
- Web analytics that allow you to analyze customer responses, track success rates of individual aspects of a campaign and make corrections to close the loop.
- A dynamic list of all your events and promotions, generated without a webmaster’s intervention, which ensures that visitors receive the freshest information and is also easily indexed by search engines, helping to drive organic traffic.
These tools make both your Web site and online campaigns flexible and responsive, while enabling your marketing team to learn what works during a campaign or event, not after it, and thus adapt on the fly to improve results. With detailed Web analytics and data, a sophisticated marketing automation platform allows marketers to anticipate the preferences of their customers, and through them the larger market, and to create campaigns with the very best chance of success.
Furthermore, they do it without using your company’s scarce, expensive IT resources. Today’s automation tools let marketers — the people who really understand the content — publish directly from their own desktops or Web browsers and keep their microsites up to date without waiting for the support and involvement of IT teams. On-demand marketing automation is a cost-effective way to minimize reliance on in-house IT while ensuring continuous access to your Web site for both your marketing team and customers regardless of location or time of day.
Ultimately, you can’t just manage content if you expect your campaigns and events to succeed — you have to personalize the customer experience. Customers are rightfully impatient, so you must not only give them accurate, timely information about your products and services, but also present it in the right form, at the right time, and in the right way. Your Web site 2.0 accomplishes both of these tasks, while simultaneously keeping your sales team informed about how and when to approach the best prospects and nurture them through to becoming valuable customers.
Your Web site is a campaign — treat it like one, and you’ll get the results you need to jump ahead of the competition.
Dom Lindars is CEO of Marketbright, an on-demand marketing automation firm.